Study Guide

Childhood's End Appearances

By Arthur C. Clarke


Imagine you see a demon—horns, hooves, leathery wings, breath smelling bitterly of brimstone and coffee, the works. Now, if you saw that demon, you'd probably think to yourself that guy is all about haunting houses, possessing innocent young girls or accepting blood offerings plated on pentagrams. But in Childhood's End, he is probably just an alien and likely makes a good living as a scientist exploring the physics of the universe. In other words, appearances can be deceiving. Subtle? Nope. Original? Maybe, if you take into account the novel was published in 1953. Does it get a point across? Yes. Yes, it does.

Questions About Appearances

  1. The characters of Stormgren and Wainwright have different views on the Overlords. How do their views relate to the theme of appearances?
  2. Why do you think the Overlords are indistinguishable from one another? What does this say about this theme's use in the novel?
  3. The character of Jan Rodricks is of African descent. How do Jan's heritage and appearance fit into the novel's views of the future and the concept of utopia?

Chew on This

When humanity transforms into the Overmind, the species does away with individual appearances, all becoming one being.

The strongest argument this book makes about appearances is that they're irrelevant, which is best exemplified in Jan becoming the perfect human.